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Lady Blue

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Crusade Tour Featured on FStoppers

The awesome Joseph Gamble interviewed me for this article on FStoppers. Love the Joseph, love the FStoppers.A Crusade for Collecting: Jennifer Schwartz’s Photo Road Tripby Joseph Gamble, published on FStoppers on September 3, 2013

Ten thousand miles, ten cities on a coast to coast ramble in a 1977 vintage VW bus all for the sake of promoting photographic art. From April to June of this year, gallerist Jennifer Schwartz was behind the wheel of her microbus on a two-fold mission: to promote photographers and create collectors. Working with five photographers in each city on the tour, she orchestrated pop-up events and curbside photo exhibits designed to educate and engage communities regarding photographic art and the value of starting a collection.

An avid photographer and collector, she launched the Jennifer Schwartz gallery in March 2009 in Atlanta with the hope of reaching collectors and providing an immersive art buying experience. One of the cornerstones of her early success was placing photographers in front of an audience of interested collectors. As she explained, her role was not just to sell work but also to foster a community of collectors.

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Lady Blue replica model in Brooklyn, New York when the van was under repair.

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The Map of the trip.

“In my Atlanta gallery, I discovered the most successful programs to get new people interested in art involve meeting the artist and making a personal connection,” said Schwartz. “They lure people who have had only a limited relationship with art to have a unique, fun experience where they engage with photography and the artists in a thoughtful way. They look, and in a lot of cases, they start to believe in art.”

While the gallery experience created a local nexus for artists and enthusiasts to gather and view work, the space felt limiting as she was only reaching people in Atlanta. Thus, she came up with the idea of a mobile arts promotion traveling across the country in a wide loop from Atlanta to Los Angeles and up the West Coast to Seattle before heading east to Chicago and New York and then down the East Coast.

The trip wasn’t an unplanned, off-the-cuff road show. Schwartz staged pre-trip events in 2012, one at the High Museum of Art and the other in December at PhotoNOLA in New Orleans. These initial stops were instrumental in preparing for the three-month journey that began in April, which she named the Crusade for Collecting.

The idea was grassroots and simple — take the gallery experience on the road, interface with local photographers in each of the tour stops and then bring the photographers and their work directly to people on the street. In essence, breaking down the gallery walls and the exclusivity that exists in the art world. Photographers seeking exposure would give away ten of their photographic prints (between 6 x 9” and 8.5 x 11”) signed copies of an image freely in exchange for the exposure and opportunity of sharing their work and being a part of the tour.

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Pop-Up Event in Cleveland, Ohio.

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Los Angeles, California Pop-Up event.

“I felt that if I could give people a fun, disarming art experience in an unexpected way – that if they had an opportunity to meet artists, learn about their work and connect to an original piece that became theirs – it may be transformative and put them on a path to loving, supporting and collecting original art,” said Schwartz. “And what could be more fun than walking by a turquoise 1977 VW bus with photographers standing in front giving away original, signed photographs to someone who wanted to chat about them?”

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San Francisco Pop-Up Event

To fund the purchase and outfitting of her bus, nicknamed Lady Blue, Schwartz, like many project-driven photographers profiled on Fstoppers, launched a Kickstarter campaign. It wasn’t an easy prospect so her efforts were buoyed by additional sources including sponsorships, a local fundraiser, private donations, and the Collectors Building Collectors program that she developed with an Atlanta collector.

“When I launched my Kickstarter campaign, it still seemed fun and new and I had only known a couple of people who had run a Kickstarter campaign but I did have a difficult time explaining to my non-art friends that ‘yes, they were giving me money to buy a bus, and no, there were not any starving children or sick animals that would benefit from it,’” said Schwartz. “Now that the concept is more mainstream and people trust it, I think it is easier to fund a project, because the pool of potential supporters is deeper.  On the flip side, there is a significant amount of Kickstarter fatigue.  If you are going to do it, I think you have to be very strategic about it.  I wrote a blog post offering tips to launch a successful Kickstarter campaign, based on my experiences.”

Lady Blue, like many Volkswagen microbuses from the past, wasn’t the most reliable choice of vehicle considering she would be subjected to a bi-coastal odyssey. Once on the road, Jen quickly learned to speak ‘conversational mechanic’ and now counts several mechanics around the country as good friends. “Fewer breakdowns would’ve been nice…” she said.

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Mechanics and Sean Dana (photographer who traveled with the tour from San Francisco to Portland) diagnosing Lady Blue. Photo by Kurt Simonson.

There were some detractors who felt that the concept of giving away work was devaluing the photographic medium and the work of the artists. Participating photographers were given an opportunity to showcase their work and reach out to new people who might take an interest in their future work. “But the goal was to give people an opportunity to connect with a piece of art, own it, hang it, to recognize value in that experience, and to want to replicate it going forward,” said Schwartz. “The hope was that the engagement would be transformative.”

Overall, the three-month saga was “a blur of awesomeness.” Photographers often came aboard and drove sections of the trip and kept her company. Social media resources including facebooktwitterinstagramand youtube proved to be immeasurable as she documented the entire experience with blog posts and video updates. It was an organic way of keeping up with new contacts from cities past and to forecast and prepare for her arrival in a new city. A few highlights of the trip include: an unplanned stopover in Cleveland with assistance from the Cleveland Print Room, a private tour by Fred Bidwell of the Todd Hido show at Transformer Station and presenting to a sold-out crowd at FotoWeek DC, the final stop on the tour.

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DC pop up with photographers Frank H. Day, Hannele Lahti, E. Brady Robinson, Jennifer Schwartz, Alexandra Silverthorne, James Campbell.

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Lady Blue in front of the White House. 

Although the Crusade tour is over, she is developing Crusade for Art, a non-profit organization with a mission to educate, inspire, and support artists to create unique, approachable programs that engage new audiences with art in meaningful ways. She has a variety of opportunities for photographers that are in the works and will be announced at the end of the year.

“This tour was not about a road trip, it was about starting a conversation about art,” said Schwartz. “It is nice to know the conversation not only started, but also continues.”

You can keep up with Jennifer Schwartz by sign up for the email newsletter and following her online at Crusade for Art or check in on her gallery work at Jennifer Schwartz Gallery.

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A Tale from the Backseat by Kurt Simonson

I first met Jennifer Schwartz at the inaugural Flash Powder retreat in Astoria, Oregon last summer.  It wasn’t long before I was deeply impressed by her passion for art and for people, and her brilliant out-of-the-box thinking.   When she first told me about the upcoming Crusade for Collecting, I loved the idea, and I had the distinct premonition that I’d find myself involved in some way (ok, actually, I had visions of being broken down in the middle of Texas, having repeatedly told Jennifer that I did not drive stick...) Still, this all sounded strangely appealing, so with a teaching sabbatical on the horizon, I figured I’d jump in. I was fortunate enough to participate as one of the featured photographers in both New Orleans and my own home of Los Angeles before I actually joined Lady Blue on the road in San Francisco.  The experience of giving my work away to strangers in both of those cities was a whirlwind of energy.  Whether the people passing by were genuinely interested in my work, or whether they were just bewildered and took a photograph to get me to shut up, it didn’t matter—my work was making it’s way into the hands of new collectors.   Who knows, maybe they got home and threw it away, or maybe they put it on the wall and it’s their new favorite thing… either way that’s okay.  What I found so valuable was the interpersonal connection of artist to collector, giving artists a chance to forge a vibrant network of relationships in the community through their work.

The next week, I met up in San Francisco with Jennifer and our fellow Astoria mate Sean Dana, ready to begin my leg of this adventure on the road.  As promised by Jennifer, I was not allowed to drive Lady Blue, due to my aforementioned ignorance of manual transmission (yes, I’m a bad Minnesotan).   So instead, I took up residence on the backseat bench, where I could get lost in all the street noise and be left to shout “what?!” to Jennifer and Sean as they had their conversations in the front of the bus.   The first story I heard was about how Lady Blue had spent most of the weekend in the shop, being tenderly serviced by an amorous mechanic named Coby.  Sean seemed reassured by Coby (who wore a jumpsuit with the name Paul on it, so Jennifer called him Fake Paul from the start) that things were going to be in good shape for the drive to Portland.   After a leisurely morning of preparation and b-roll footage, we hit the road.

The camera was rolling, the music was cranking…. and the oil was leaking.  Heavily.  We didn’t even make it over the Golden Gate before Lady Blue decided she missed Coby.  With only a couple miles under our belt, we had to go back to Valley WagonWorks to spend some more quality time with Fake Paul Coby.   I was beginning to wonder if we would spend more time crusading for mechanics to become collectors than anyone else.  This photo says it all to me:

The generous sponsorship of the “Impossible” project, written on a decal along the side of the bus, threatened to become an ominous prophesy of doom.  However, long story short, and a mediocre Mexican dinner later, Coby found what was wrong (or did he?) and sent us off on our way, just barely before sunset.

After spending the night in Willits, CA, Sean chugged ole’ Lady Blue out of the parking lot of our hotel and into the middle of the road, where she promptly decided that she was done … only two minutes into the day.  We forced her to chug along a side road to Ron’s Muffler, where we would meet our next batch of collectors mechanics.  This time, however, the experience and wisdom of Ron was on our side.  I had a good feeling about this and was optimistic: I grew up around repair shops and mechanics.  It’s the type of work my family has done for generations, and while I’ve always been a total misfit to that world, I still had a good feeling about Ron and his two guys, Cesar and Matthew.   Sure enough, within minutes, Ron could tell what was happening, and Matthew found a bolt that was loose, or broken, or something like that… I don’t know… Sean talked to them.  I was busy taking photos of junk piles.   Again, I’m a bad Minnesotan and I fell far from the mechanic tree in my family.  In any case, with a sense of great relief, we hit the road again, with our mechanical woes behind us.  Lady Blue was finally happy, it was a beautiful day, and the lush wooded landscape of the 101 northbound was ahead of us.

The day was marked by two epic stops:  first with John and then with the Giants.   Jennifer has already shared a bit about John, and his toilet in the middle of the field along the side of the 101.  (You can see some of Sean's photos here.) This was truly your quintessential road trip experience.  John’s roadside wunderkammern was a definitely a “cabinet of curiosities,” but it was John himself, and his hospitality and generosity, that left us feeling so much joy.  

Upon first getting out of the bus, I was led by John directly to the far back of his large shed where he opened a fridge packed full of beer and soda and proceeded to tell me all about his Chrysler New Yorker, his various collections, and all the different people he gets to meet when they stop to use his toilet in the field.  He pulled up chairs for us, offered us many gifts, and even sang along to some of his favorite songs (he would regularly grab the remote to his Bose speaker system and play whatever song he felt appropriate in the moment).  Eccentric, definitely, but crazy?  Not at all.  John struck me as a man who delights in simple pleasures, and loves to meet anyone who comes his way.  He is a collector of experiences, and a perfect person to meet on this Crusade adventure.

Our next stop was to see the redwoods in the Avenue of the Giants, a sight I have always wanted to see.  Needless to say, I found myself deeply in awe of the beauty of this place… but having been told by Sean that this is where they filmed Return of the Jedi, I was sorely disappointed that there were no Ewoks and speeder bikes.

Our second night was spent in Crescent City, which afforded us this beautiful view the next morning (see above). Day three would be spent driving up the Oregon coast, which is really beyond words in its beauty.  Much to our delight, Lady Blue behaved herself all day and managed to control her addictive desire to meet new mechanics in each major city.   That night we finally found ourselves in Portland, enjoying the warmth and hospitality of my friend Tom, slowly peeling off the layers of clothing that we wore to keep warm inside the bus.  Photolucida was the next day, and my adventures with Lady Blue were coming to a close.   I didn’t participate in the Portland pop-up, due to review appointments at Photolucida, and I have to admit, it felt a little strange to not be part of it.  It had been a total pleasure to be included on three legs of the Crusade and to be along for the ride between two of them (even if I never did get to drive the Lady). Jennifer and the Lady are headed to the Midwest and East Coast next.  If you’re in one of the remaining cities of the Crusade, don’t miss your chance to see what it’s all about, and even go home with some free art.

Kurt Simonson is a fine art photographer and professor based in Los Angeles.  He is also one of the best people on the planet.

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The Long and Winding Road

Oh Lady, you are such a temperamental girl.  In Santa Monica we had some sudden trouble when you decided to veto first and second gear all together.  I felt remarkably in-tune with you, when I suggested to the mechanic (#4, a great guy, big fan of turtle doves - so much so that he had a large cage of them in the workshop) that the shifter plate (I called it something involving about a hundred more words than that) was out of alignment, and he agreed.  He agreed on that, plus identified a few more costly "improvements"/sure-to-be problems.  We were all ship-shape and enjoying the most gorgeous drive up the Pacific Coast Highway.  Look at you here, turning heads:

That's right Lady, you are a stunner.  We made it all the way to Morro Bay and decided to call it a night.  Look how the motel even wanted to color-coordinate with you.  It's all about you, I promise.  So why the long face, huh?  We started the day today with big plans - lunch in Big Sur, driving over the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset.  We had caffeine, premium gas, and coastal views that can literally take your breath away.  But an hour or so in, we pulled to the side of the road for a photo (did you think you weren't going to be the main subject?), and then you wouldn't start.  

I will admit that something seemed wrong when I went to turn you off, and the key fell out of the ignition, and you were still running.  It's such a dinky key for such a strong woman, but whoever the jackass was who took your ignition out of the steering column and put in this crappy version in your dashboard didn't really get what you are all about.  But the fact remains, that post photo-op, you wouldn't turn over and get going again.  No cell service added to the drama, and a jump didn't make a difference.  

Something from all of these mechanic visits must be making an impression, because again I identified the problem - something in the dinky ignition set-up was spinning and not allowing the key to turn far enough to the right to turn the engine completely over (or something like that using more smart automotive words).  After pushing the bus down the road a bit in an effort for a push start, Max had one bar of service on his phone - enough to call a mechanic in Seaside (2 hours away) who told me how to remove the ignition from the dash and basically hot-wire the Lady.  Hot!

At this point we decided to make a bee-line for the mechanic in Seaside, and I was too afraid to turn the bus off again to make any stops.  With one apple and a half-tube of Pringles, it was survival time.  Some quick miles to the gallon calculations 20 minutes from Seaside told us our tank may be too low to get us here (did I mention the gas gauge doesn't work?), we filled her up without turning off the motor.  Turns out the "turn your engine off before fueling" signs are just a suggestion.

Alas, we made it, and Bob was waiting with an "art tour people know nothing about cars" type look on his face.  (It didn't seem like the right move to explain my two recent diagnosis victories.)  He set me over to the automotive shop to buy a replacement dinky ignition, and $31 (parts and labor!) later, we were back in business.  Bob, like the others, assures me the Lady is in great shape to make the rest of the journey, and just like the other times, I choose to believe him.

The Lady and I are in this together.  Our relationship is complicated and a bit one-sided, but she is my girl, and we will journey on.  Crusade away!

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Goodbye Los Angeles. . . Let's Love Each Other Again Soon

Oh Los Angeles, you are delightful.  True, the traffic was intense, especially driving the Lady, but I forgive you. Paradise must have some sort of flaw.

Last night I was fortunate enough to give a presentation at Venice Arts, a beautiful space right on Lincoln Boulevard.  The presentation talks about the Crusade for Collecting project, but it is more broadly about building audiences for art - how to do it, the challenges, and the importance.  It is really exciting to have an opportunity to talk about something I feel so passionately about and to answer questions.

What was less exciting was how Lady Blue decided not to go into first gear on the drive over.  Come on girl - get yourself together!  So the VW repair shop in pushing distance of where we're staying. . . well, the mechanic (Lady's 4th! - she's the Liz Taylor of vehicles) is lovely.

I'm waiting on her to get a good work-up now, and then we're off to San Francisco - one of my favorite places in the world.  See you there. . .

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LA Crusade: Sunshine & Success!

There could not have been a better way to start the west coast leg of the tour than with the Crusade pop-up event Saturday in Venice.  It was ridiculous - sunshine, huge crowds, lots of pre-event buzz, energetic and talented participating photographers, enthusiastic audience. . . it was beyond, beyond my highest hopes. From the first minute we pulled up in front of the Alternative Apparel store (an awesome partner and responsible for our tour-exclusive t-shirts and hoodies), it was bananas.  People everywhere wanting to know what was going on, what the Crusade was about, where exactly this Lady Blue was going. . . Shannon Leith, one of the superbly talented local photographer showcasers, said it best (and caused the group to double over in laughter) when we stopped in the middle of the fantastic chaos to take a group photo, and she leaned her face up to the sun, eyes closed, and said, "feel this moment, guys".

Bootsy Holler, Tom Johnson, Shannon Leith, Kurt Simonson, Jeff Rau

Bootsy Holler, Tom Johnson, Shannon Leith, Kurt Simonson, Jeff Rau

In case you need a refresher, five local photographers are curated into the project in each tour city.  They each give away ten signed copies of one of their images in a 6x9ish size.  And they need to have chutzpah too, since they actively engage people walking by.  This group was tops.  There wasn't a single moment of pause - it was a chorus of "Would you like to become an art collector today for free?" and "Would you like an original signed photograph to take home today?".  Art guns blazing, charm for days - these photographers were amazing and each made it a point to have meaningful conversations with their new collectors about the image, about themselves, about the project, about the awesomeness of art.

You're totally jealous you missed out on these beauties, right?

Be on the lookout for the webisode of this pop-up on our YouTube channel in a few days, but in the meantime, here are some fun photos from the event to give you the flavor.

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Reunited With My Lady

The Lady’s gas gauge is notoriously unreliable (I once ran out of gas on the interstate, and mechanic #3 ran out of gas and was stranded on the side of the road during his first test drive), and so I thought it would be wise to fill her up first thing.  Apparently the environmentally-conscious California gas pumps have a vapor protection thing on the end of the nozzles, which makes it difficult/impossible to insert the nozzle very far into the vehicle.  Well, that just wasn’t working for her.  So every time I tried to put gas in, it poured out onto my feet.  Nice.

The gas station attendant was baffled and a bit of a language barrier had us at a standstill.  She suggested I head up the street a couple of miles to the 76, which had a mechanic’s shop attached.  We drove up the road, but said mechanic’s shop was actually a Taco Bell.  Not as helpful.  But that attendant had a lot more experience with the nozzle and was able to show me some sort of sideways move to make it work.  But, as it turned out (rather embarrassingly), the Lady already had a full tank.

So with a full tank of gas (although not according to the gauge), we headed out to explore the city.  First stop was Samy’s Camera, who is generously lending us equipment we need to film the entire tour.  Awesome place – four floors of photo amazingness. 

Tomorrow is the pop-up, and I’m pumped.  The blog love has been amazing, and I’m excited to bring some really strong photographs to the people – LA has got some talent, and the people walking down Abbot Kinney tomorrow are sure to notice!

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It's Blast-Off - Crusade Away!!

Yesterday I went to the chiropractor to get my own tune up before my big journey with Lady Blue.  He told me to quit the rodeo, my back was so jacked up.  This has been way more intense than a rodeo, with a lot of bumps and bruises along the way, but I am so happy I didn’t quit – the adventure is just about to begin. I’m on a flight to Los Angeles with my three kids and Max, my film sidekick, and the one responsible for creating the first few webisodes on our YouTube channel.  My husband is on a different flight, luxuriating in solitude for the last time for quite a while.  It’s spring break, and I’m lucky to have my family along for the California portion of the trip (even though Sabine is getting quite a few looks while she yells “backpack” along with Dora on the ipad, not realizing how loud she is with headphones on).

Lady Blue has been sunning herself in Santa Monica for a week now.  Because she is a bit fussy (as evidenced here – this video not made by the talented Max, just by the very amateur me), and because my husband’s blood pressure was steadily rising the closer we got to the tour (and justifiably so), we decided to ship her to LA and meet up with her there.

So wish us luck, and thank you , thank you for all of the kind words and enthusiastic encouragement that got us here.  Crusade away!!

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Spotted: Lady Blue in Sunny LA

Did you hear about the totally badass partnership between the Crusade for Collecting Tour and The Impossible Project?  I just got my goods in the mail, and I cannot wait to start photographing the crazy art adventure that begins this week! But there's also a contest, and who doesn't love a contest?  Here's the gist:  follow @Crusade4Art and @ImpossibleUSA on twitter.  Look for clues about where Lady Blue will be and when, and snag an instant photo of her.  Post to Instagram and/or Twitter with the hashtag #crusadeimpossible, and you will be entered into a drawing to win one of three amazing swag packages from Impossible.  And if you show up at a pop-up with a polaroid of Lady Blue in hand, I'll lavish you with bumper stickers and buttons.  Official contest rules can be read here.

Well, wouldn't you know that one of my favorite polaroid photographers, Clay Lipsky (check out his Ten collection, all shot with Impossible film) has already tracked down Lady Blue in Santa Monica and taken the coolest shots of her? #crusadeimpossible!

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Well, hello Cleveland. Welcome to the tour!

That's right - you asked, and we're stopping.  A few different people reached out to make a case for adding Cleveland to the Crusade Tour, and we just couldn't say no.  Lady Blue is just dying to park next to Johnny Cash's tour bus at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Adding Cleveland shifted the east coast leg of the tour a bit, so be sure to mark your calendars with the new dates:

Atlanta – kick-off event March 27

Los Angeles – Saturday, April 6

San Francisco – Saturday, April 13

Portland – Wednesday, April 17

Seattle – Tuesday, April 30

Chicago – Friday, May 24

Cleveland - Sunday, May 26

New York – Sunday, June 2

Washington, DC - Wednesday, June 5

Richmond - Saturday, June 8

We're getting ready to roll!

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Announcing the Second Crusade Stop!

New Orleans! Lady Blue will be pulling up in front of Dirty Coast's new store at 329 Julia Street during the Julia Street Art Walk on Saturday, December 1 from 6-9PM.

Dirty Coast specializes in spirited New Orleans t-shirts and original designs. We are thrilled they will be hosting us!

The event will be in conjunction with PhotoNOLA, a city-wide annual festival of photography.

A huge thank you to Dirty Coast for hosting us and to PPRPix for printing the photographs we will be giving away as part of the Local Photographer Showcase.

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Bobble Sponsorship - Rock a Crusade Water Bobble!

I have long been a fan of the Bobble, and will be so bold as to call myself an early-adopter. I'm just cutting edge like that. What's a Bobble you say? Let me fill you in on the best thing to hit your cupboard in years.

Bobble is a simple and smart solution to hydration. It's a water bottle with a built-in filter. Fill it up, and the water gets filtered as you're drinking. So when you're out and about and still have seven more glasses of water to go before hitting your daily goal, you just fill it up again with any old water and know that it will be good and purified by the time it hits your lips.

Since Bobble is the coolest product around, they know cool when they see it. And so they have agreed to be a sponsor for the Crusade for Collecting tour.

Head on over to the Crusade store to get your very own Crusade Bobble ($10!), in Lady Blue color, of course!

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Lady Blue Makes Her First Appearance!

The Crusade for Collecting is going on tour, pulling up Lady Blue (the 1977 VW Bus purchased through funds raised on Kickstarter), displaying photography from both local and national artists, and creating a spectacular scene. Photographs will not be for sale. Instead, people will be encouraged to choose a favorite photograph and engage in games and talks with the artists. Most people will be able to keep their favorite photograph and walk away collectors. Bam! Local photographers will have the opportunity to connect with future collectors in their own communities, and people will take a moment to think about the value and accessibility of art.

And the first stop? Atlanta, of course!

The first Crusade pop-up will be hosted by the High Museum of Art on November 23 (the day after Thanksgiving) from 1-4pm. Come see Lady Blue and some amazing photography. Get ready for hi-jinks and fun, meet photographers and walk away a collector (we are giving away over 100 signed, original photographs)!

A huge thank you to the High Museum for hosting us and to our local sponsors: Binders Art, Digital Picture and PPRPix.

The Crusade for Collecting Tour makes its first stop at Atlanta's High Museum of Art!

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Update on the Tour

Every time I go out of town (Portland for a weekend, Santa Fe for a few days), people ask where the bus is and how the tour is going. Or I'll be out to dinner with my husband and the kids, and we'll run into someone who asks, "Hey! How did your big trip go?". Ok, clearly there is some confusion I need to clear up!

Last October I did a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to buy a bus, and the success of that campaign landed me Lady Blue. She is lovely, and a bit temperamental. She lives at the mechanic's, and I have all of my fingers and toes crossed that soon she will be road-worthy.

The original plan was to leave in March. But I'm itching for the road. Plus, I think Lady Blue may need a few regional trips under her belt before she tackles the open road. So we are scheduling New Orleans, Miami, Savannah and potentially a few others, starting in December.

And to clarify, WE WILL BE GIVING AWAY ORIGINAL, SIGNED PHOTOGRAPHS. That’s right. Not selling, giving. This is a non-profit, arts engagement project. We are building an audience for photography.

Lady Blue and I will be cruising up to the center of town, pitching our art tent of fabulousness (showing all photography from the online project, The Ten), giving away photography and creating collectors on the spot. High jinx, gorgeous images and loads of charm will turn even the most skeptical passerby into an art enthusiast (or at least make an impression and start a conversation).

So get excited. It's just around the corner. Crusade away!!!!!

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Has Kickstarter Jumped the Shark?

Last fall I launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to purchase Lady Blue, the 1977 VW bus I will be Crusading in around the country come March. At the time, most of my art friends had heard of Kickstarter and only a few non-art friends knew what it was. It still seemed fun and new and I had only known a couple of people who had launched a Kickstarter campaign. Now Kickstarter exhaustion seems to be setting in on everyone. If I can’t find $4 in my wallet to buy a latte, inevitably someone will suggest doing a Kickstarter for it. Hey, why not? Cash money!

I love the platform. I beyond love it. I think it’s genius. And it’s a wonderful opportunity for artists to build an audience and a funding source for their projects. My concern is that so many people are using it that potential backers are getting flooded with requests, which will ultimately cause people to write off projects before taking the time to learn about them. Too many too look at, too little money to go around.

On the other hand, when I did my Kickstarter campaign, I had a difficult time explaining to my non-art friends that yes, they were giving me money to buy a bus, and no, there were not any starving children or sick animals that would benefit from it. Now that the concept is more mainstream and people trust it, I think it is easier to fund a project, because the pool of potential supporters is deeper.

If you are going to go for it, go big or go home. Kickstarter is a one-time ask. You can’t put up a project, not have it fund or not have asked for enough money the first go-round, and then go back to your people and ask again. Well, you can, but you’ll look like an ass (unless I decide to do this, in which case I take it back. . .).

So if you are going for it, here are my tips to give you the best chance at a successful campaign:

1. Choose a goal amount that is enough to fund your project but not completely unrealistic, given your audience. This is tricky, I’ll admit, and you have to consider the fee percentage Kickstarter takes from your total.

2. Choose the shortest timeline to achieve your goal. People’s attention span is short, and most people wait until the end to contribute. Trust me, by day 4 you will be sick of hearing yourself talk/tweet/facebook/email about it. Push it hard and fast and then be done.

3. Rewards are huge. We want to support a good cause, but really, we all want something cool. Offer small rewards ($5 or $10) that get people invested in your idea. For example, I offered a $10 reward where backers could send in a sticker that would go on the bus.

4. Another note on rewards – make sure you aren’t offering too many rewards that will cost you money to produce and take away from your bottom line.

5. People like to support projects that seem popular and have momentum. It is really important to start out of the gate with a bang. Choose a handful (a large handful, ideally) of “ambassadors” – people you are close with and who you know will support you – and give them a heads up that you are about to launch the campaign. Ask them to please contribute within the first 24 hours and to help spread the word.

6. And then after the first 24 hours, keep the momentum going and the reminders coming by posting relevant updates to the project. Tell us about a new facet of the project that just came up, a new detail that was just nailed down, a bit of press that just came out about you or your project – something beyond, “Hey, remember me? I still need money. . .”.

7. Another great method to keep momentum going is to release limited edition backer rewards every 4-5 days. We had artists volunteer to donate pieces for us to offer at a great value, which was an opportunity to post an update to announce the new reward and create some urgency to contribute, since only a few of each were available.

8. Finally, talk about it (over social media, in emails, person to person) until you are blue in the face. Then talk about it some more. If every person you have ever met (virtually or otherwise) doesn’t know about it and isn’t sick of hearing about it, you are not promoting it enough.

So what do you think?  Tired party trick or genius platform?

Looking for help crowd-sourcing your project? Read more here.

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Bus Bash

On Saturday we had the big reveal of Lady Blue at the Bus Bash event at WonderRoot. It was a mini trial-run of what the pop-up shows will be like on the road trip next year, as well as a fundraiser for the trip and for WonderRoot's artist exhibition fund. In case you missed it, here you have four hours of fun condensed into one minute of video.

Welcome the bus party in May

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Life Is A Highway

and you'll see my bus sitting on the side of it. . . Today I picked up the bus. After the Test Drive of Terror, I was more than a little apprehensive to drive Lady Blue from the mechanic's place to the gallery. My husband brought me up there, but he had to follow me back in his car, and so the Lady and I were left alone to find our way with each other.

We started off tense and unsure, but pretty soon I realized she was a lover, not a fighter. We went through many stoplights together with nary a stall.

And then, we hit a snag. I was confidently accelerating on the highway, but Lady Blue was decelerating. Where did we go wrong? The closer I pushed the pedal to the floor, the slower she went. And then I pulled over, and we were done. Engine wouldn't turn over. A slap in the face.

I called the mechanic, and apparently when the gas gauge says half full, what it really means is empty. Luckily, a hero was on the way.

The Lady started right up, and I got off at the next exit to get to a gas station. The mechanic (let's call him Richard) followed me, which turned out to be a very good thing.

Yes, that's gas on the ground. Easy in, easy out. Apparentlly my "H.E.R.O." tore some rubber seal between the gas pipe and the side of the bus when he put the gas in. But Richard worked it out, and I was soon back on the road, alone with my Lady.

We arrived safely at the gallery, and I feel we are in a good place now. We've had some long talks, and I think we are going to be fine tomorrow at the Bus Bash. We are excited to move forward and forge a beautiful relationship together.

Driving the Lady home

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The License Plate Store

Lila (my 5 year old) was home from school today, taking an extra recovery day from a weekend bug, so she was my co-pilot for a most exciting adventure - registering the bus. Didn't want you to miss out on the DMV fun, but thought it wise to condense the experience into three minutes. . .

My daughter and I go to register the bus. Where? The license plate store.

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Lady Blue Is On Her Way

Three weeks, many phone calls to different transport companies and some half-baked back-up plans later, the bus is on its way to the ATL! I got the call today from Lester, the Jamaican car transporter with an accent so strong I can only understand every fourth word, to say he had arranged the bus to be picked up this afternoon. At least, that's what I think he said. But then I got this photo from the man in New Jersey I bought the bus from, with this message: "antenna is inside bus for transport,chrome parts have wax applied for protection, spare keys in glove box. best of luck and thanks again!"  

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Holy Smokes - I Bought a Bus!

And not just any bus, and beautiful blue crusademobile. It's amazing. Well, it looks amazing. It lives in New Jersey and will be delivered to Atlanta in a few weeks. Lady Blue will go straight to my mechanic's garage for some shoring up and tweaking, and then we will work on converting it from a surf ride to an art bus. This is so exciting. Thank you so much for your support and for allowing this most incredible first step to happen. Crusade away!!

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